Disney World Fastpass+ Strategy- General Tips

Planning a Disney World vacation may be intimidating, especially with many people having the question, "Are the lines really as bad as people say? I'm worried we won't get on many rides". If you do the traditional 7-10 day vacation, it may not be an issue. But, if you're someone who only has 1 day in each park, and you're unsure if you will ever be back, it is a legitimate concern for the amount of money that you have spent.

Disney's FastPass+ system is unique to the Disney World Resort, and works in a way different than most traditional FastPass systems. This article is meant to give you information and tips for planning your FastPass attractions, to ensure that you will get on the most rides possible.

Here is some general info and FAQs about the system:

1. FastPass+ is free and available to everyone, no additional charge: Unlike most FastPass tickets at traditional parks, the beauty of Disney's system is that it comes at no extra charge to you. Anyone who books a vacation at Disney, whether they are staying at a Disney resort or not, is guaranteed 3 FastPass+ selections for each day that they have park tickets. The only difference is that guests staying at a Disney resort can book their FastPasses up to 60 days in advance, while normal admission holders can only book 30 days in advance.

Although this means that resort guests get first picking, it does not guarantee that the most popular attractions will be completely booked by the time the 30 day mark rolls around. It all depends on how busy the parks will be at that time of year, and what rides are most popular or new.

2. Book fast, and remember FastPass+ selections change quite frequently: Just because you were not able to book your most desired choices initially, does not mean that you are out of luck. People modify and cancel their selections every minute of every day, meaning that their disposed FastPasses will become available to anyone who wants to take them. I do still suggest that anyone who is planning FastPasses wakes up at 7 AM on the day that booking becomes available, as experienced Disney guests will be competing with you for the most desirable selections.

Making your choices does not have to be rapid fire, by any means. It's not like trying to get tickets to a popular concert and being on the clock. But keep in mind that every hour and every day that you put off booking your passes, more and more of the popular selections will be taken. 

Question: What if I didn't get all of my top choices? Answer: Keep checking the website or app every day! As mentioned above, people change their minds all the time. There is a good chance that if you keep checking, and visit at the right time, a totally booked FastPass slot may now be available to you.

On my most recent trip, I was initially unable to book Avatar: Flight of Passage on the first day of my FastPass window. A week later after checking for availability, one appeared and I was able to book it. On my second day at Animal Kingdom during the same trip, after using my 3 FastPass selections, I was able to book another Flight of Passage for the same day! It is totally worth it to keep checking the app, as I avoided over a 3 hour long line each of the three times that I experienced the attraction.

3. The longer your vacation is, the more flexibility you have: It is not uncommon that if you are visiting during a busy time of year, many FastPass attractions will already be booked early in your trip. Parties just finishing off their trips as you are coming in will have already gotten to book their choices before you. Once your window opens, you are able to book your selections for your entire trip, not just the first day, regardless of length. Let's use an example:

- The Smith family's vacation starts May 30th, ends on June 8th, and they are staying on Disney property. This means that they can book FastPasses starting April 1st at 7 AM.

- My family's trip starts June 3rd, ends on June 12th, and we are also staying on property. Our FastPass window therefore opens April 5th.

- Because the Smith family (and many other families) have a long vacation, their FastPass choices for the second half of their trip bleed into the first half of my trip; meaning that I have either less of the popular attractions to choose from, or they are already completely booked. This is due to the fact that they could choose passes for their entire trip, including days where I was staying, but also did not have access to my selections yet.

- I do have the advantage that the Smith family had, because they are already gone by the time the second half of my trip begins, and families just coming in on those days also do not have access to their FastPasses yet.

- Keep in mind that if it is a busy time of year, this problem will happen to everyone, including the Smiths, and it puts those who either have short vacations, or those not staying on Disney property at an even greater disadvantage.

- Longer vacations mean you will likely be able to experience all attractions that you want at least once, if not more, regardless of FastPass or standby lines. FastPass availability increases with each extra day that you are staying.

- If you visit during a time with low crowds, you may not encounter this problem at all, and be able to book everything that you want for all of your days at Disney. I suggest using the various crowd calendars online if you are aiming to plan a trip around a time that has low crowds.

4. Once you cash in your 3 FastPasses at their respectable attractions, you can make an additional FastPass choice for the same day immediately: You may not book another FastPass, or even view available choices until you redeem the three that you have already booked. Your only options to change a FastPass you already have is to either cancel it, or modify it through the MyDisneyExperience app or a FastPass kiosk.

A tip that I would give, is while you are waiting in your FastPass line for your third selection, immediately go to the app to view what's available. Your choices may be very limited depending on the crowd level and what's still available, but remember to constantly be checking and refreshing to see if any good choices show up. Remember that this a game of partially skill, and mostly luck, but if you're smart about it, you could possibly book an E-Ticket attraction far before some other poor soul can make it to the nearest FastPass kiosk.

5. Your additional FastPasses can only be booked as you use them: Once you use your three pre-booked passes, and are onto your additional on-the-fly bookings, these may only be booked as they are used.

- For example, if I am at Animal Kingdom, it is about 2 PM, and I have already redeemed all three of my FastPasses, I go ahead and book an Expedition Everest FastPass for 6 PM that same day. I cannot book FastPasses for before or after that time, and have to wait until I cash in that single pass, before seeing other options. The only way around this is if I modify my pass to an earlier time and redeem it, or cancel it altogether.

6. FastPass Tiers: Every park except for Magic Kingdom has "FastPass+ Tiers," where you can only book a certain amount of attractions from each tier. The most popular rides are in Tier 1, and the rest are in Tier 2. The FastPass system only allows you to book one Tier 1 ride and two Tier 2 rides, or three Tier 2 rides.

- For example, my family is visiting Epcot, and wants to book Test Track, Soarin', and Frozen. However, they are all currently Tier 1 rides, meaning we can only use one FastPass selection between them. So instead of those three choices, we only end up with Test Track, Mission: Space, and Spaceship Earth.

- However, that does not mean that we will not be able to ride the other two popular attractions, because we still have the option of using the standby line, or seeing the availability of additional FastPass selections after using our pre-booked three.

So even though pre-booking only allows you to choose from certain tiers, once you redeem those three, all attractions are valid for additional FastPasses, regardless of tier. Just keep in mind that you may only hold one of those at a time as you go along, and the other popular attractions may already be sold out. Keep refreshing!

Magic Kingdom is unique. Because of its size and amount of popular attractions, there are no FastPass tiers. All attractions eligible for the FastPass system are fair game, regardless of popularity.

7. FastPass windows and restrictions: Besides the tiers, there are some other restrictions to keep in mind when booking your FastPasses. Your windows for FastPasses cannot overlap at any point.

- If I'm looking to book my Magic Kingdom passes, let's say I try to book Buzz Lightyear for 11:05 to 12:05. Next I want to book Haunted Mansion for 12:00 to 1:00. Even though this is only a 5 minute overlap, and I'll more than likely be out of my Buzz Lightyear FastPass by 11:30, I cannot book Haunted Mansion unless I move some times around.

- A slight "hack" to this is that once you redeem a FastPass, you can modify the FastPass times for after that FastPass immediately. So for example, I have the option to move up my Haunted Mansion FastPass to 11:30 while I'm in line for Buzz. I do that so I can get all 3 of my FastPass choices done as soon as possible, and go onto making my additional FastPasses sooner.

- If a time isn't available to move up your following FastPasses, try to find a ride with a wait time that will fit in the time until your next FastPass. So if I have 45 minutes until my FastPass for Haunted Mansion, and I pass by Winnie the Pooh, which has a 35 minute wait, I'll go on that attraction so I'm making best use of all of my time in the park. This is a much better use of time than slowly strolling over to my next ride, and waiting near the entrance until my FastPass window. I suggest using the MyDisneyExperience app to instantaneously keep track of wait times. It is very accurate.

You have an hour window to make it to your FastPass, which is a lot of time, so there is no need to rush around. The FastPass podiums will allow you to enter a maximum of 5 minutes early, and a maximum of 15 minutes late, as grace periods. Try to buzz in even a minute before or after that time frame, and the cast member will let you know the situation.

One final restriction is that you cannot book a FastPass for two of the same ride while pre-booking.

- For example, we're planning for Hollywood Studios and cannot get FastPasses for Slinky Dog Dash. Instead of picking a Tier 1 ride, we choose to pick three Tier 2 rides. We want to book one pass for Rock N' Roller Coaster and two for Tower of Terror. The system tells us that we cannot book two of the same ride in advance. This includes at Magic Kingdom, where they have no tiers.

- However, after you redeem your three passes, all tiers and restrictions go away, meaning any available ride is fair game for additional FastPasses. So as long as there are some still available, we can keep booking Tower of Terror FastPasses (one at a time, as you use them), and ride as many times as it is available.

8. Hit the sweet spot, don't book FastPasses for rope drop: FastPass efficiency is the key to getting on the most rides, with minimal waits. NEVER, and I mean NEVER book FastPasses right at the park's opening time. At rope drop, the wait times for rides are nonexistent and very short. You will end up waiting the same amount of time in the FastPass queue, if not longer than the people walking right on the ride in standby. This is a waste of a FastPass, because you may get on a ride once or twice before a line even begins to form at rope drop.

The first hour or two of each park's operation is when waits and crowds will be lowest. Try to get as much done and on as many rides as you can before the crowds pick up. I would say to start booking FastPasses around an hour and a half or two hours minimum after the park opens.

Once you start booking your passes, try to book them back-to-back as best as you can. This is because you will get a lot done early in the day, but also opens up that opportunity to create more FastPasses as the day goes along, beating out the crowds who are looking to get the best choices, just like you.

9. Use the app: The MyDisneyExperience app is free, and the fastest way to access everything you need to know and modify for your vacation plans. At the tap of a finger, you can immediately create, modify, cancel, and view all of your FastPasses, reservations, and more.

Wait times are updated instantaneously, and it also informs you what rides are closed, as well as show times and other events going on around the parks.

For FastPasses, your options for creating them is either through the app, the Disney website, or through FastPass kiosks around the park. As I've alluded to many times above, as soon as you cash in that third FastPass, you immediately gain access to making additional ones. I suggest looking through what's available while queuing for your third attraction.

This is the fastest way to book rides because it is instantaneous. By the time you book that hard to find Flight of Passage FastPass, other park guests who are also looking to book additional passes will not have even made it over to the kiosks yet, only for them to find that nothing good is left.

Would you rather open an app and click a button, or spend time finding a kiosk, walking to it, waiting in line to use it, and finally finding out that someone else took all the good rides because you took too much time?

10. The best FastPass is smart planning: You don't need to plan every minute of every day you are in the parks to get on all of the rides. It's not fun to vacation like that, and it's also inefficient, as many unpredictable things can happen. Smart planning is not working out every second, it's planning your passes at the right time, close together, and using them the right way.

For your downtime in-between those FastPass windows, use the app to see wait times. If the line is short enough at the ride you just went on, do it again. The amount of time spent complaining and worrying about the wait times can be spent finding those right attractions to hit, and booking those additional FastPasses before the majority of the crowd has even used up all of theirs.

If you have a short trip or go at a busy time, you may not get on everything, that's expected, but the whole point of a vacation is to have fun. Enjoy your time in the parks, be happy that you're experiencing such a wonderful environment, and create memories that will last forever. You don't have to rush around all day and get on every ride to get your money's worth. Keep in mind that every park has a selection of attractions that are worth missing. Even though this is Disney World, not everything is worth the line.


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